updated 23 May 2009, 17:34
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Sat, May 23, 2009
The Straits Times
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Staying together
by Theresa Tan

THE Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) is reviewing all its help schemes to make sure that Singaporeans, especially children, do not fall through the cracks during the current recession.

Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan told The Straits Times yesterday: 'We are going through all our schemes affecting families to see if they are recession-proof, meaning that no matter how tough things get, children must not suffer.'

Hence, the MCYS is studying the eligibility criteria of various schemes, working with its partners, among other things, to come up with a social safety net that is 'robust enough' to weather even a prolonged recession.

Yesterday, the MCYS released its plans and priorities for the coming years, in its addendum to the President's Address.

In it, Dr Balakrishnan pledged to update ComCare schemes which provide financial aid, among other help, to the needy, so that they remain 'relevant and adequate'.

He said: 'We will exercise greater flexibility to help those at the margins and provide more financial support, especially to children from low-income and vulnerable families.'

Besides the poor and those affected by the recession, the MCYS will also extend more help to dysfunctional families plagued by multiple and chronic problems.

Dr Balakrishnan also told The Straits Times that its focus is also on women, to ensure that they have access to support services as families face greater strain with the gloomy economy.

The MCYS will also provide more funding for the childcare sector and aims to facilitate the development of another 200 childcare centres in the next five years.

Turning to the elderly, the ministry said it will work with the Health Ministry to ensure that long-term care services are available to seniors and their care-givers, and that the vulnerable elderly receive enough protection, among other plans.

The ministry will also pay 'special attention' to strengthen marriages, Dr Balakrishnan said, without elaborating.

Ms Anita Fam, who chairs Marriage Central's advisory board, said the group is working with agencies such as the Ministry of Defence and Education Ministry to change mindsets on marriage.

Ms Fam explained: 'Sometimes people have overly romanticised ideas about marriage. If you want a perfect partner, you will be disappointed.'

A one-stop resource centre at the Registry of Marriages will be set up this year, she added.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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